Englishtown: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson is ready to add to his history in Englishtown; ACDelco Cavalier driver aims to extend POWERade points lead. Sugar Hill, Ga., May 12, 2003 - Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, is one of the most hallowed stops on...

Kurt Johnson is ready to add to his history in Englishtown; ACDelco Cavalier driver aims to extend POWERade points lead.

Sugar Hill, Ga., May 12, 2003 - Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, is one of the most hallowed stops on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing circuit. Since 1971, this legendary speedplant has hosted some of the legends of the Pro Stock division, including Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, "Dyno Don" Nicholson, Lee Shepherd, Warren "The Professor" Johnson and Bob Glidden, whose performances helped lift the category from its nascent state to its current status as a fan favorite.

Second-generation racer Kurt Johnson earned his own place in Englishtown lore when he became the first "factory hot rod" in the history of the NHRA to post an elapsed time under seven seconds with his 6.988-second blast there on May 20, 1994. However, as Johnson and his ACDelco Cavalier Racing team return to the Garden State for this year's NHRA SuperNationals, that accomplishment will remain a pleasant, but distant memory as they look to maintain their position as the POWERade championship points leader.

"Every year when we go to Englishtown, I remember that run," said Johnson. "It will always be a highlight of my career, but that's behind us. We have other goals to accomplish, including getting our ACDelco Cavalier back in the winner's circle. I have yet to win a national event there, and this would be a great year to do it."

In addition to the normal weekend activities, eight racers will participate in the Pro Stock Challenge, an annual all-star event. This 19-year Englishtown tradition pits the most productive qualifiers of the past year in a three-round, single-elimination format, which offers the winner the opportunity to earn over $75,000. Having cashed the big check twice, it is a race that K.J. eagerly anticipates.

"These special events are fun, because they add extra excitement to the weekend," stated Johnson. "It's a unique situation for the teams. You don't have to worry about qualifying or championship points - it's just let the clutch out and see who gets to the finish line first.

"Best of all, there's a lot of money involved, and we can always use some extra cash. Hopefully, we can take care of getting our ACDelco Cavalier safely in the show on Friday night, so we can have some fun on Saturday."

Given the right atmospheric conditions, Raceway Park is capable of producing national record performances. However, teams will need to read the surface carefully, as the variances in the New Jersey climate will have changed it since last year. As always, information from the first qualifying run on Friday will be crucial heading into the all-important night session. As if that's not enough, Johnson would also like to avoid one particular car for as long as possible - that of his father, six-time Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson.

"The ACDelco team's mindset heading into Englishtown is to win both races and take home the $25,000 bonus money (given to the driver who wins both the event and the Pro Stock Challenge)," explained Johnson. "But, first we have to qualify. If things go as they normally do there, the Friday night session will be the good one, and it will be fast, so we have to make sure to take advantage of it. The key will be maintaining the consistency we've shown so far this year.

"We also want to be on the opposite side of the ladder from Dad. Our goal every week is to meet in the final and the last two races we've met in the second round and the semi-finals. With each of us in the hunt for the championship, we want to team up on everyone else, not each other. Maybe we can meet for the win this weekend in Englishtown."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the NHRA Supernationals:

* KJ in Englishtown: This will be Kurt's eleventh appearance at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, where he has one final round appearance in 1993. In addition, he has been the No.1 qualifier twice in New Jersey (1994 & 1998), and has an average starting position of 5.8.

* One Year Ago: KJ qualified 10th in Englishtown with an elapsed time of 6.799 seconds and a top speed of 202.91 mph, and advanced to the quarterfinals.

* Traveling in Elite Company: Kurt's 26 national event victories ties him with legendary Pro Stock driver Lee Shepherd for 15th on the all-time NHRA professional win list, and fifth in the Pro Stock Career Victories. Kurt's most recent win came at last month's Mac Tools NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, TN.

* Pro Stock Challenge: This will be Kurt's tenth appearance in this annual all-star race, which he won in 1994 & 1998. Kurt is qualified fifth, and will face Jeg Coughlin in the first round on Saturday.

* POWERade Points standings: After the seventh of 23 events, Kurt leads the 2003 POWERade point standings by 53 over second place Greg Anderson, and 55 ahead of his father, Warren Johnson, who is in third. Kurt finished sixth in 2002, his tenth consecutive Top 10 finish.

* Winning percentage: Kurt's .638 elimination round winning percentage (316-179) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.726 seconds, Houston, TX 2003 (The second quickest elapsed time in NHRA Pro Stock history.)

* Career best top speed: 205.57 mph, Houston, TX. 2003 (The fastest top speed in NHRA Pro Stock history.)

-tm-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Bob Glidden